Clear cut plan
Today is Hoshana Rabba, the last chance for Teshuvah before the final "Chasimah" of the new year. We need to have a clear cut plan if we want to succeed in doing true Teshuvah. We need to make sure that visiting forbidden sites and masturbation is simply "not an option" for us any more. Once a person succeeds in convincing his mind that it isn't an option for him, the battle is already basically won. There are two powerful - and often necessary - tools that we can use to convince our minds that these behaviors are not an option anymore:
1) The first way is by installing a strong, fool-proof filter and giving the password to someone else. Without this, there is little hope for success. There will be weak moments in the future, and our minds need to know that it's just not an option. Anyone who wants can put in my e-mail address at email@example.com as the place to send the password if it was forgotten. This way, you won't be tempted to ask them to send you the password by e-mail. A strong filter keeps it "out of sight and out of mind". Get one TODAY, on Hoshana Rabba, and show Hashem you are serious about making the change.
2) The second tool to making it not an option anymore, is vows, which we discussed a bit in yesterday's chizuk e-mail. Often however, people are not sure how to proceed with vows, and are afraid to take this important step. And even if they do make vows for a short time period, they will often be "lazy" to renew the vows when the time is up. Someone expressed these concerns to us recently by e-mail, and here is what we tried to answer them:
Let me help you by offering you a clear plan, step by step, of how to proceed.
A) Write up a list of what situations and triggers cause you to feel weak and fall, or even make you afraid that you might fall.
B) Then, based on this list, you need to design a set of vows that keep a fence around these stumbling-blocks. For example, if you find that you start to slip when browsing the internet alone in the room, prepare a neder not to browse internet (that is not protected with a strong filter) unless someone is in the room with you and can see the screen (not that they actually have to see the screen at all times, but you can say that they "can see the screen if they wanted to, without having to change places"). And, if you find yourself slipping when looking through magazines, prepare a neder not to open any non-Jewish or non-religious magazines that you can assume might have immodest pictures in them, unless someone asks you to, or unless someone asks you to look at something in them, etc...
Notice I am writing "unless this" and "unless that". It takes experience and it will take time for you to learn exactly what situations you need to protect yourself from and what situations you need to leave some lee-way for, in case something important comes up. Prepare these vows carefully in a text file on the computer.
You can even use more crafty vows, such as; "Shvuah that in the next 2 weeks, if I open any web site on the computer that I can assume will contain immodest pictures or videos, I will give $25 to Tzedaka (for every half hour that I do this in)". Or "Shavuah that if I masturbate in the next 2 weeks, I will go to the Mikvah within 24 hours - or give $20 to Tzedaka", or "Shavuah that before I masturbate I will do 20 minutes of exercise".
Don't say these Shavuos yet. Just prepare them. And write down the time-frame you want to make the Shavuos for, together with each shavuah you prepare. The vows should not be for more than a week or two at first.
The vows can cover more than just internet and masturbation, you can prepare vows for anything that is a stumbling block for you, like "not to drive alone with the car into certain areas" or "not to call certain telephone numbers" etc... Each person knows what his triggers and stumbling blocks are.
C) When you feel you covered the important areas, read it over again and make sure that you thought of any exceptions you want to make, in case your intentions would be clean.
D) When you are sure the wording is right, make the vows while reading from the exact text and wording you prepared.
E) Make one more vow at the end, that you will make another set of vows towards the end of the time period you set, BEFORE the previous vows expire. This will protect you from sinning when the time-period is up, if you find yourself "lazy" to make new vows right away.
And each time you make new vows, return to the text file you prepared and re-adjust the vows and the time-periods based on what you learned from the previous weeks. Vows that you found were not protective enough (like if you found ways around them) need to be strengthened. Vows that were too much (like if they excluded even innocent things that you happened to need but couldn't do because of the vows) should also be adjusted. Slowly over-time, you will learn exactly what vows are right for you and you will be able to extend the time periods as well. After a while, you will have a clear, comprehensive list of vows saved in a file in the computer and you will even be able to make the vows for up to a year at a time, say from this Hoshana Rabba until next Hoshana Rabba.
Wishing everyone a true Teshuvah and that we should all merit to dance with the Torah with true joy and without shame!